The Neverending Pumpkin, vol. I – The Initiation

pumpkinIn my pantry today:

  • 1 11lb pumpkin

Having never before opened up my own pumpkin, there was no frame of reference here for just how much pumpkin is in a pumpkin.

My folks sent us home with one several weeks ago and it has been lounging as a kitchen table centerpiece since. Time came, though, to pony up — either cut it open and use it or set it outside to rot. The kitchen table wants not to continue ringing in the new year set on autumnal harvest mode.

punkinseedsThe first step was to address the seeds. I jabbed the top off and removed, then rinsed the seeds. I let them soak in cold water over night and roasted them the next day with a little salt and cayenne pepper.

I roasted half of the pumpkin and made puree happen. That required skinning the roasted slabs of pumpkin, putting the flesh through the food processor, then letting it rest for an hour in a colander under a plate. I made sure to save the water that squeezed out — it looks like water, but still packs all the same pumpkinoatmealnutrients as flesh proper. About two cups of puree resulted from this. Half of that was stirred into the following morning’s steel-cut oatmeal with a little brown sugar. And then the remaining pumpkin? I had to procure help getting it diced into cubes in order to sally forth.

gallonopumpkinchunks

This is a gallon plastic bag full of raw pumpkin chunks in water (to keep them from browning à la apple)

From this pumpkin I assumed I’d get seeds and a meal (maybe two). From the second half of the yet-to-be-cooked pumpkin resulted in a gallon and quart of 2″ cubes.

A quart of chunks was frozen in a bag of water, then what will follow over the next day or two will be a couple of meals made with pumpkin — I know from the enormous amount of recipes online that I could have made something sweet, but I wanted better for pumpkin. I wanted to give it top — not dessert, but dinner — billing.

Truth be told, I have never cared for pumpkin pie, so all the sweet-sounding things didn’t trip my wires the way most sugary things might. So I guess I didn’t necessarily want better for pumpkin, but perhaps for myself.

Stay tuned for at least one pumpkin-bacon and one vegan pumpkin dinner!

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Parsley-Kale Pesto (or, “I can’t believe it’s kale!”)

In my pantry today:

  • 4 c (cooked) whole wheat thin spaghetti
  • 2 c parsley
  • 1 c marinated kale
  • 4 L cloves garlic
  • 1 c walnuts
  • 2/3 c olive oil
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 c Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste, y’know?)

Kale-Parsley PestoWell we had spaghetti sauce and salad stuff, but neither one of us necessarily felt like being transported tonight via flavor to the isle of Sicily. Maybe something a wee bit lighter (-seeming, at the very least) like olive oil and garlic? Then a bulb came on above both our heads at the same moment — pesto!

Since kinda-recently learning of coconut oil’s health benefits I’ve been trying to incorporate it into my cooking — the trick there is not to make coconut pasta, so tread lightly. It, the whole wheat pasta and walnuts are the main proteins here (unless you wanna count the Parmesan too, but ’tis a mere pittance), nevertheless feel free to add chicken or shrimp if you don’t believe in things like that.

Parsley-Kale PestoAlso, ha! Made ya like kale, right?

Put all that stuff in the food processor and let it whirl until — magically — pesto appears! Adjust the oil if you want it more/less soupy. With the minimal amount of coconut in a dish that roars of garlic, there was a faint hint of Thai in this dish… just enough to make it delicious and foreign, but not enough to make it taste counterintuitively unfamiliar.

I had enough left over from our [2 person] meal that I used 2 tbsp of it to make a pesto vinaigrette (this stuff, red wine vinegar and a little more olive oil) and still had 1/3 c of it to put in the freezer. 5 spoons.

Gluten-Free Breakfast Bread (ft. TWO kinds of chips)

In my pantry today:

  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 1 c almond meal
  • 2/3 c rice flour
  • 1/3 c flax meal
  • 3 L eggs
  • 1/8 c coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c walnut pieces
  • 1/4 c dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 c butterscotch chips

bananabreadomega3sDespite trying to remain mindful of how my dietary choices affect my health, when it’s cold I seem to be on a constant, instinctual hunt for the most comforting foodstuffs a hot oven can offer. In trying to marry these two seemingly at-war concepts I am now dedicated to uncovering the healthiest ways to be unhealthy. I feel this one loaf can be glorious illustration of such a wondrous union.

This will all be way easier if you’re using a food processor, so let’s assume you will.

Put in the food processor: oil, butter, sugar, honey. Blend. Add dry ingredients in between eggs with a little loud, mechanical punctuation on each account. When you get to the nuts-n-chips, add them in and blend for 5-10 seconds. Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350° for 30-55m (or until knife comes out of the center clean).

The coffee pots are set up and now breakfast for tomorrow morning is cooling on the counter, just beaming with gluten-free fiber, protein and omega-3s [flax, walnuts, coconut oil]. I’ll be better able to ever-so-gently sidestep any of that nasty Baked Goods Guilt knowing that not only is it a healthier option (than, say, a fast food biscuit + ??? + cheese), it is just as tranquilizing to my taste buds as something from a drive-thru with all 5 spoons on its sweet, sweet side.

Cheesy Casserole Love

In my pantry today:

  • 3 c broccoli florets
  • 1 c mezze penne (dry)
  • 3/4 c white beans (cooked)
  • 1 whole head roasted garlic
  • 1/3 c colby jack cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 c mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 10.5 oz can cream of [celery] soup
  • 1 tbsp reserved bacon grease [butter for vegetarian option]
  • 1/3 c plain soy milk
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt/pepper
  • dash asafoetida
  • 1/4 c Panko bread crumbs

casseroleWhen my better half walked out the door for work this morning, I promised to have some manner of cheesy casserole in the oven to greet her upon return. On the heels of that promise, I released broccoli from its crisper drawer prison. Then, well… I just kinda winged it.

Nope, not quite clear enough...

Nope, not clear enough…

Mince onions and let cook in bacon grease on ML until onions become translucent. Salt and pepper them for the heck of it (oh, and add in the asafoetida now). While that’s going on, boil pasta until al dente (so that it won’t get too mushy cooking in the ‘role). When done, drain and rinse under cold water; set aside.

In hindsight, I probably should have used a bigger pan. Please learn from my mistake.

In hindsight, I probably should have used a bigger pan. Please learn from my mistake.

When the onions have reached desired glassiness, dump your florets in that pan and mix until everything’s hog-tied in pig drippings [again, butter can be used here for a vegetarian option… I just happened to have some bacon, and, well, you know what happened]. Crank the heat up to M and let them cook, tossing occasionally, until the pan in its entirety blushes a bright green.

And while that’s going on, mix together those mashed up cloves of garlic, “cream of” soup, soy milk and cheeses. Grease the bottom of a casserole dish, then mix all once-individual tasks together — pasta, broccoli/onions, beans, cheese sauce. Bake covered in a 350° oven for about 25-30m, then remove from oven and dust with panko. Let it sit for five minutes, then dig on in to your night’s official flavor destination. 5 spoons!

Leftover Turkey: Chili

In my pantry today:

  •  1/2 turkey breast, chunked
  • 1 28oz can Rotel® tomatoes
  • 1 8oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 c corn
  • 8 baby carrots
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 small onion, chunked
  • 3 L cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • dash asafoetida

turkchiliThis one is easy — put everything in a large pot, grate the carrots in for added nutrition and texture, bring it to a low boil then reduce heat to L.

TIP: Add in the onions that cooked in the beast’s cavity.

Cover and let sit to ruminate for at least an hour — the longer, the better (to a point — we’re not talking 3 weeks here or anything). Feel free to adjust any seasonings, especially the cayenne, to your own personal taste. This is a 5 spoon dinner — when I return from Adaptive Yoga tonight, it will be waiting and ready.

Be Gentle, it’s my First Time

In my pantry today:

  • 1 5-6lb turkey, giblets removed
  • 4 m-l cloves garlic
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 2 c stock/broth
  • 1/3 c sea salt
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

turkeyThe whole “polar vortex” thing, though significantly less pronounced in the southeast, is frigid enough to close schools and dissuade many civil workers from appearing at their jobs. It is, therefore, the perfect night to roast an entire animal!

Well, and there was a turkey in the freezer.

Meat is admittedly not one of my favorite food items anymore (try telling pre-30 me that), but I can’t claim innocence on roasting birds. Chickens until now, but tonight is my first whole turkey and I’m already making leftover plans.

I’m going to proceed from here as though you have never before dressed fowl.

Get your bird naked as a jay and remove everything from it’s cavity. Rinse it under cold water inside and out and put it breasts-down in on a rack inside a baking pan.

Chop your garlic coarsely, turn your onion into small chunks. Set aside. Gather and put into a bowl all remaining spices, then pour in the oil and stir everything into a paste. You should have ample cavity access from this angle, so start massaging the spice-paste in there before filling it with all the onion and a bit of garlic. When adequately coated/stuffed (don’t cook your birds with actual stuffing inside them, I feel needs to be said), ever so carefully flip the bird.

Using a knife, stab through the skin and work your fingers up under there. Rolf that carcass with flavor. Shove garlic in every created underskin entrance. Once all the mix is gone from your bowl, pour broth below the rack in your pan and put in an oven preheated to 450°. In twenty minutes, reduce the temperature to 325° and continue waiting, basting every [20m for the first 80m / every 10m after that] until the timer that came in your bird pops up or meat thermometer reads 165°. Even though my kitchen currently lacks the twine commonly used to truss the bird, I still came out juicy and delicious at 5 spoons free-birding it — there will be recipes galore once the novelty of eating off the bone wears. Well, “galore” might be a little strong since it’s just a 6lb bird, but still… nom.

Coconut-Walnut Quick Bread (Gluten Free)

In my pantry today:

  • 1/2 c rice flour
  • 1/2 c oatmeal
  • 1/2 c golden flax
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 eggs (or egg replacement)
  • 3/4 c evaporated milk
  • 1/4 c sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 c coconut oil
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c flaked coconut
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts

coconutwalnutquickbreadOn an evening so algid I better love the oven, but my wife has the car today and we’re out of butter and milk, and have no bananas, sweet potatoes or canned pumpkin. Working off of this recipe as a basic quick bread template, I substituted what was on hand for what the cupboards lacked… all to a delicious, gluten free and health(ier) loaf of easy-to-grab-in-a-frozen-morning-hurry bread.

For the quickest way to get your bread on, start out by blending sugar/oil in the food processor. Add eggs, milk; blend. Add flour, oatmeal and flax; blend (this will help chop up that nasty texture-betraying oatmeal). Put in 1/4 c  shredded coconut and 1.4 c walnuts; pulse the machine so as not to chop those nuts unnecessarily. Pour into greased loaf pan, sprinkle remaining coconut/walnuts on top and bake at 350° for 30m (or until a butter knife inserted comes out clean).

The deployment of flax and use of coconut oil instead of butter assuages my potential guilt, whether it be carby or sweet. Sugar was still involved in the making of this loaf, but at a reduction from previous quick bread recipes. It earns 4 spoons, with a one-spoon reduction only for its sorrowful lack of dark chocolate chips. We were out of those.

Creamy Kale-fredo

In my pantry today:

  • 2 c mezze penne pasta
  • 1 c minced, marinated* kale
  • 1/2 c cashew butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 c chicken broth (for equitable option, use veggie broth)
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • dash turmeric

kalefredoAll the creaminess of an Alfredo with none of the cream! This is not to say I was gunning for an Alfredo sauce when I started, but the richness and flavor reaped by cashew butter is a worthy replacement for actual cream. Start this whole shebang by mincing your garlic and letting it simmer in a pot on M for a few minutes (I washed dishes).

Upon your return to the stove, smack the cashew butter up in that pot. Add broth slowly; stir to meld the two. Heck, go on and stir in all the seasonings while you’re at it. Once everything has made friends with one another, introduce the lemon juice and kale; cover and simmer on L for a few minutes while you cook the pasta. Drain it and add to the sauce pot. Toss everything together and let it sit on L for at least 5m (let the pasta saturate itself in flavortown) before digging in. 5 spoons!

kale*The equation I use for making marinated kale is: KALE (- STEMS + A FEW DROPS OIL) + FOOD PROCESSOR x 15 MINUTE WAIT = “MARINATED” KALE

2013 Christmas Baskets!

2013basket

Another Christmas, and another edition of the gift all adults wish for (They do. Trust me on this.) — every year, my parents assemble and throw a blanket over large [laundry baskets / plastic storage bins] full of groceries and household goods. There are, as usual, too many for me to sit and draw a list of — but please enjoy the wide variety of items both gourmet and hilarious, including:

  • 15 cans of broth
  • snacks
  • smoked salmon
  • nutritional yeast
  • bag of sugar
  • sprats in tomato sauce
  • 2 cans of vienna sausages
  • tea bags
  • coffee
  • dried bonito flakes (cat treat)
  • 9 gravy packets
  • tooth flossers
  • light bulbs
  • dishwasher tablets
  • bag of razors

Tabling each item and photographing the lot was only the first step of this multi-prong process. There will be no recipe again today, since I’ll be spending the morning figuring out where to put everything. And probably still eating leftovers.

Happy New Year!

Cashew Butter(scotch) Blondies & Dark Chocolate Orange Cookies

Thanks for coming back! Though I’ve had a-whole-lotta life goings on, I certainly didn’t go without cooking all this time… but blogging about it?

Eh, priorities.

Merry Christmas Eve — I am baking gluten-free for a New Year’s transition into giving glutenless living a try. I am baking diabetic-friendly* on top of that. This doesn’t mean that I’m retracting flavor.darkchocorangecookies

Dark Chocolate Orange Cookies

  • 1 c almond flour
  • 3 tbsp golden flax
  • 3/4 stick butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c xylitol
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c dark chocolate chips
  • 6 drops doTerra® wild orange essential oil

1. Cream butter and sugars. I’ve found that the food processor works great for this because at the very end I’ll ultimately get smaller pieces of chocolate chips in these almost classic lace cookies.

2. Add egg and orange oil; blend.

3. Add dry ingredients, then chips. Blend.

4. Bake at 350° for 5-7m — let cool before removing from pan. If you can cool them overnight, they’ll solidify a little better for traveling.

Cashew Butter(scotch) Blondies

  • 1 1/2 c white beans (drained/rinsed)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 c cashew butter
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • level 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 c xylitol
  • 1/4 c molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c ground golden flax
  • 1/4 c toffee bits
  • 1/4 c butterscotch chips

1. Make cashew butter by using the food processor to grind 1/3 c or so of roasted cashews. Or by buying it. No judgement.

2. Once you’ve measured the right amount of cashew butter, throw everything else BUT your chips in the food processor and blend until a smooth paste.

3. Then throw in the toffee/butterscotch chips and pulse the food processor until blended, but not decimated.

4. Pour into foil or parchment paper-lined 8×8″ pan and bake at preheated 350° oven for 30m.

blondies5. Do not be alarmed when they emerge looking burnt. Let cool several hours (if not overnight) before slicing.

 *They’re friendly, but not like best-friends-for-life friendly; please use your judgement on sweetening levels.